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How well do CMIP5 Earth System Models simulate present climate conditions in Europe and Africa?

This study evaluates seven Earth System Models (ESMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) in present climate conditions. This is done from a downscaling perspective, taking into account the requirements of both statistical and dynamical approaches. ECMWF's ERA-Interim reanalysis is used as reference for an evaluation of circulation, temperature and humidity variables on daily timescale, which is based on distributional similarity scores. To additionally obtain an estimate of observational uncertainty, ERA-Interim's deviation from the Japanese Meteorological Agency JRA-25 reanalysis is calculated. Areas with considerable differences between both reanalyses do not allow for a proper assessment, since ESM performance is sensitive to the choice of reanalysis. For use in statistical downscaling studies, ESM performance is computed on the grid-box scale and mapped over a large spatial domain covering Europe and Africa. For use in dynamical downscaling studies, performance is specifically assessed along the lateral boundaries of the three CORDEX domains defined for Europe, the Mediterranean Basin and Africa.